Looking into the past, we find cultures very different from our own, yet we find people doing many of the things we do—discovering celestial order through observation, developing calendars, creating cosmologies. As scientists, we often endeavor to explain the unknown by seeking likenesses with known phenomena. However, we must be particularly careful when we use this strategy to study the astronomy of other cultures, for we often become enticed into thinking that their motivations and goals were the same as ours. Warning of this “presentist” trap in the thick of the Stonehenge controversy two decades ago, a historian commented that every age fabricates the Stonehenge it desires. Perhaps we gain a measure of security if we convince ourselves that prehistoric Newtons and Einsteins were preaching and practicing our outlook millenia ago. But were they?
Native American astronomy
Anthony F. Aveni; Native American astronomy. Physics Today 1 June 1984; 37 (6): 24–32. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.2916269
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